Hi gang! This week I'll be talking about how my first and subsequent story drafts have come to be. Stay tuned to see what the others will tackle!
I often see new people at the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum posting pieces of their work for comment and asking a very loaded question- should I keep going with this writing gig? Or should I just give up?
In other words, they want other people to tell them if they have the talent to tell a story, or if they really can't string two words together.
But it's not that easy.
No matter how long you've been writing, you still have plenty to learn. That's never more true than when you're just starting out, but it doesn't become less relevant as you go along, either. And though you can read dozens of craft books, take classes, talk to agents and authors, there's only one way you're going to get better at it- by writing, and writing plenty.
Sadly this means you may have to accept that what you first put out is not all that good. That's where I am at the moment.
I churned out a 120,000 word first draft of BETWEEN THE LINES in just over six months after joining the Forum. I was so enthused to find myself surrounded by other writers, and so buoyed up by positive feedback on my work, that I just couldn't stop writing. It was wonderful. I just put out words and words and words and words. I wrote without looking back, and it was extremely freeing. I recommend it as a first draft approach to anyone- don't review your stuff (in detail) until it's done.
But be prepared that when it's done, it's very possible your bubble might get burst. When I sat down and re-read my 120,000 words, it was less a complete story, and more a demonstration on learning how to write. There was no flow. The pace of most of my scenes was very average, to say the least. My characters were pretty good, but my dialogue was awful. It got progressively better the more I wrote- I could see the progress- but after a lot of attempting to squeeze and shape what I had, I was left with one conclusion- it nearly all had to go.
And gone it mostly is. Instead of editing what I've written, I'm starting from scratch. Except this time I know I'm starting with infinitely better skills, and I also know how to edit my work as I go. Instead of giving up on this book as the "doorstop" that will never see the light of day, I plan to set aside the first draft only, and put my renewed everything into my second draft.
No great revelations here, I suppose- just know that if you're starting out at writing, it's okay to write bad stuff to start with, as long as it keeps getting better. Nobody else can tell you whether it's worth persisting with- you'll know that if you a) read plenty of books and absorb good language, and are therefore able to realistically assess your own work; and b) if you can't get your story out of your head, and you love the journey it's taking you on (whether you love the actual butt-on-chair part so much or not!).
And one day you'll get to a point where you realise you actually know what you're doing. You'll still have plenty to learn, but you'll know that your story is taking you somewhere great.